A guide for freelancers – What kind of prospective clients to refuse

Sometimes the phone doesn’t ring for months. Then it rings, and you feel God has called you. This God is also known as a prospective client. You are almost in tears, someone out there has realised your worth and wants to pay you. Your existential crisis is disturbed by this human being. You want to keep his photo next to your Guru/God, but here are some words of caution on this God.

These potential clients can be tricky. I am below outlining my mind map for accepting/rejecting clients. I have categorised them in to four types.

1. Prospective Client wants to delegate tasks

He wants to delegate tasks which he doesn’t have time to do or he thinks it is not worth his time. This is the lowest kind of job. You are into a operations kind of scenario where you are paid for your time and you know time doesn’t scale up.

If you get such an offer, make sure you can do the dirty laundry or dirty dishes with a sense of gratitude, as this is a thank less job.

2. Prospective Client wants to hire you for your unique skill and talent

There are people who can spot something unique in you. You are not useless as you think you are. Maybe you have a technical skill, maybe you are just a honest person, or you are a people person. You are unique & there no one else who can do that particular work. You have a monopoly skill/business

This is ideal situation, where you are bringing more than your time to the table. But still you need to use your time and skill to complete the project.

3. Prospective clients wants you as an advisor

This is amazing, you have reached a level that your insights and experience is needed. Maybe your profile is so good, that having you on their team will add tons of credibility to their project. Here you need to be cautious that your personal brand name is not misused.

Now coming to some strategies clients use to check your Hunger

Hunger is your need to bend down to the lowest price for their project.

Meet me at my office

Many prospective clients will insist on you meeting them at their office. Their office is generally in some good damn part of the city. If the clients refuses to brief on the phone, I smell rat. This guy wants to meet you, put you under pressure and squeeze free ideas for his business. That’s the reason he wants to meet you unprepared. When you meet the prospect without a brief, he has an upper hand.

I avoid meeting people who cannot discuss the project at length on phone. If there is a tone of arrogance when they ask me to meet them, I am alarmed and deny such a request or ask for an advance payment as commitment.

This is super urgent!!!

Another way to test your hunger, is to give you an urgent project and pay you peanuts or not pay at all. If you complete the task in the deadline without asking for “urgency cost” than you are really hungry.

Most tech guys combat this very well. They build lot of delays in to the project, this is a reverse hack of the clients “urgent requirement”. I don’t recommend delaying projects to get a better bargain, but at the same time, one should be aware of the prospective client testing your hunger.

A Prospective Client talks down to you.

They are loaded. Their companies are many 100 crores of turnover. This gives them God Complex. Every other human being who is not in the 100 crore bracket is a beggar. They don’t feel any shame before they shout or talk down to you. I reject these kind of clients out right.

I have been fooled by this category, where they have sweet talked me when on-boarding and then tried to talk down. A talk down is a perfect way to make sure to break the employee morale so he is always in awe of the client.

I reject this kind of prospective client out-right. One needs to constantly be watching for signals for these kinds. Unfortunately they are far too many and one can get used to.

How can small businesses be a win-win situation for all stake holders

In my post yesterday, I said that small businesses become a zero sum game and if the owner wants to make a tidy profit he has to exploit and out smart his smartest employees. This is a cat and mouse game. The Cat (owner) may eat many mouses but eventually he will run out of steam i.e the younger employees will have a new skill-sets which the older owner is not able to keep up with.

So how do small businesses over come this structural issue

I think small business have this basic structural issue, where either the owner wins or the employer wins. If the owner wins, the business stays afloat for a longer time, but eventually this structural issue with eat up the small business like termites dig into walls.

Naval Ravikant I think says that in future, every person would be a one man business.

With the advent of AI, most of the corporation who can use this expensive tech, will start reducing their manpower. This means the current peak levels of employment will not be sustainable. Corporations are built to maximise profit, if a AI can do the job, corporation will cut the work force.

But governments are supposed to manage the people. If unemployment reaches beyond a certain point and if there is wide spread discontent, the stability of the country is at stake.

New phrases like “ Gig economy and Co-working space” are the already an industry on its own. This is an indicator that people will be doing a lot of stuff like a small business or perhaps a one man small business.

Small Business should turn all its employees into a one man small business to make it a win-win situation

People are driven by incentives. The more skin in the game one has the more he is in the game. In the traditional small business set up, the employee is treated like a disposable commodity. If he works his arse off, he is building the owner of the small business brands. So he doesn’t have any skin in the game.

Now, If a small business can subcontract all its operation/marketing/sales/service to other one man or smaller units of small business this could mean all stake holder have skin in the game. The subcontractors are owners of their businesses, and whatever they learn servicing their existing clientele can be transferred to a new client.


If you are small business and feel you have grown to a point where it is getting extremely tiring for you to carry on. Do try this system and let me know 🙂